The music is generally light and fast moving, with little evidence of the depths heard in the G minor (No.25) and A major (No.29) symphonies previously composed. The most memorable numbers are the serious ones Geme la tortorella, a graceful cavatina for Sandrina about a mournful turtle-dove; Vorrei punirti indegno, an impressive piece of indignant fury from Arminda and Dolce damor compagna, a florid invocation to Hope by Ramiro; and the extended scene of reconciliation for the two principal lovers, Sandrina and Belfiore.
Part of the Barbicans Mostly Mozart series, this semi-staged concert followed the new production at Garsington Opera (a country house festival) which opened in June. The giardiniera at the Barbican Hall consisted of a square wooden floor with a couple of wooden benches semi-surrounded by small green trees. The singers wore 18th-century costumes and visibly enjoyed frolicking about in this mildly amusing slapstick comedy.
Despite a number of cuts in the score including Sandrinas opening arias in the first two acts, Belfiores first aria in the first act and Podestas only aria in the second act this still was a very long evening. I doubt the opera would be performed if it were not by Mozart: there is simply not enough variety too many similar fast arias to sustain interest. Despite this reservation, everyone involved gave his or her best to make it an enjoyable evening.
The small orchestra, especially the strings, played beautifully for Steuart Bedford, who conducted with spirit, elegance and wit. There was not much lingering more opera buffo than dramma giocosa! Shouldnt Sandrinas cavatina about the turtle-dove be taken a little slower so we could have savoured the lovely melody.
I do not usually care for Adrian Thompsons rather monochrome and hard tenor but the grotesque self-glorification of Podesta was well characterised. Lisa Saffers bright, white tone and unfortunately thin at the top is not to my taste either, but she sings with great commitment and has a good trill. Iain Patons modest tenor seemed to have difficulties with some of the lower notes but again was fully in character. Majella Cullagh as the haughty Arminda (with a galleon in full sail as a hat!) was marvellous. Her clear, firm and silvery tone is pleasing to the ear, and is based on a rock-solid technique. Her deliciously executed trills in Si promette facilmente (Act One) elicited audible delight from the audience. Michelle Waltons rich mezzo was suitably fiery in Va pure ad altri in braccio (Act Three) and ably projected in the Hope aria but, unfortunately, she lacked a true trill. The purely buffo characters, Serpetta and Nardo, as portrayed by Carla Huhtanen and Damian Thantrey respectively, did justice to their comedic roles the worldly-wise soubrette Serpetta is very much a precursor of Despina in Cosi fan tutte. Nardos three ways (Italian, French and English) of trying to seduce Serpetta in Con un vezzo allItaliana had people in the audience laughing out loud especially when Damian Thantrey tied a white handkerchief over his head to portray the English method of seduction!
A well performed and enchanting confection for a summer evening!
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